Like a lot of places, if you visit a cabin or resort in northern Minnesota you are likely to come across a library of forgotten books. Books brought from home or left by visitors that never seem to make it back to their point of origin. I think there must be some cosmic law that compels all Readers Digest Condensed book volumes to find their way to one of those two places before they die.
If you look closely though you can occasionally find, if not gems, then at least some very interesting books. The one I found last week was To Bear Any Burden by Al Santoli, published in 1985 and the topic is the Vietnam War. Santoli interviewed 48 Americans, Vietnamese, and Cambodians from all sides about their experiences before, during, and after American involvement there and he put their own words into chapters in chronological order. It's not a scholarly history and it's not intended as such. It's more like a compilation of testimonies and is a pretty easy read in a way. What is not so easy is the frankness in which some terrible things are described. The good, the bad, and the ugly are presented, from the post WWII French colonial era through the refugee camps of the late 1970s. The statements on Vietnam in the 1950s and the fighting between the communist and non-communist nationalists were particularly enlightening to me.
Santoli says in the introduction, "In no way do we claim to represent the whole story. But we hope to bring to light some of the complicated realities that have often been overlooked. Please allow our truths to be a part of the larger discussion". I think Santoli accomplishes his goal as far as the book goes, though I don't think all of those truths have ever really made it into most public discussions of Vietnam. Which is a shame really, because the history of Southeast Asia in the last half of the 20th century is complicated and this book brings that out well. There are lessons there that are relevant today, not just on the battlefield but on how politics in America affect the battlefield far away.
This book can still be found used on Amazon via the link above. I can't call it a must buy but if you're interested in the history of Vietnam it's worth your time, whether you buy it or find it in your local library.....or borrow it from a friend's cabin.